Review: The Iceman (2012)

the iceman poster

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) meets and marries the woman of his dreams, Deborah Pellicotti (Winona Ryder). Kuklinski claims to have worked for Disney, though it comes out much later that he was actually in the porn business. One night the tapes are not ready, and Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) and his crew comes calling. Kuklinski promises to have the tapes ready, and goes for a meeting with Demeo the next day where Demeo asks him to come and work for him after shutting down the porn business. He feels that Kuklinski is cold and efficient, and asks him to murder a homeless man as proof. Kuklinski does as he is told, and Demeo keeps the gun as evidence.

the iceman getting into business

Kuklinski now works exclusively for Demeo, and is not to take jobs on the side. Kuklinski is happy with the arrangement, and becomes a renowned and respected assassin in his field. Kuklinksi and Deborah now have two children together, Betsy and Anabel (McKaley Miller). Kuklinksi gives his wife everything she has ever wanted and his daughters are in private Catholic school. Life seems to be going well for Kuklinski. However, trouble breeds on the horizon when Demeo has problems with one of his guys and when Kuklinski refuses to kill a seventeen-year-old girl at one of his jobs. Robert “Mr Freezy” Pronge (Chris Evans) tells Demeo that he had to sort out the girl, and ultimately the mob politics lead to Kuklinski becoming unemployed. He is not allowed to take jobs on the side but desperate to stay in the game, he is good at what he does.

the iceman stiarcase
“You see the Iceman crying?” – Richard Kuklinski

Kuklinksi becomes bitter and increasingly angry, scaring his wife and children. He needs to get back into the game or he will lose his mind. He visits his brother who makes the ominous prediction that Kuklinski will end up in prison just like him, with his family writing him off completely. Kuklinski still works very hard to keep his personal and his professional life separate, but since being laid off caution is thrown in the wind. He notices the need to get back to work in fear of scaring his family off, which means the world to him. Striking a deal with Mr Freezy, Kuklinski is now the assassin behind the veil, the person no one knows about. Freezy pulls the jobs, Kuklinski executes the targets, and they both get paid. Together they will then cut up the victim and freeze them, making it impossible for authorities to determine time of death.  It goes without say that Demeo cannot know that Kuklinski is working with Mr Freezy. Slowly but surely though people start talking, and Demeo starts asking questions, and just like that Kuklinski’s perfectly created façade starts to crack, and he works hard to pull it all together again and remain in control.

the iceman kuklinski at work
“I only feel alone around other people. Couldn’t be truer.” – Mr Freezy

Will Demeo figure out that Kuklinski is working with Mr Freezy, despite his strict ban on working with others? Will Kuklinski be able to keep his family life and business life separated, as much as he wants to? Will his wife and children remain clueless as to his daily activities? Will his past deeds eventually catch up to him?

GRADE 6.5Michael Shannon was completely amazing to watch, and is probably what saved this movie in the long run. Not that it was bad; there were just a few issues with it. I also enjoyed Chris Evans, his character gave me a bit of a sadistic giggle, though there is really nothing that should actually be amusing in here, you can’t help but find the moments where it happens. Michael Shannon played the family man role down pat, and got the icy and sinister side of his character down too. Ray Liotta was decent for what he did, but there were moments where it simply just didn’t work. The style that the film was shot in was good for what it portrayed. The plot was laid out just fine, and it was not an issue following what happened. However, I really feel that more effort could have gone into wrapping the film up at the end; it left a lot to be desired. It just felt like a bit of a missed opportunity for me, which was really a pity seeing as the cast was fine, and the story was interesting.

Review: Killing Them Softly (2012)

killing them softly poster

“Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America. And in America, you’re on your own. America is not a country. It’s just a business. Now pay me.”
– Jackie Cogan

Johnny “Squirrel” Amato (Vincent Curatola) has a plan to hit down a poker game of Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). He is unafraid of the Mafia and what they will do seeing as Markie previously paid two guys to rob his poker game and later claimed from insurance. He was immediately suspected, but persuaded hitman Dillon (Sam Shepard) that he had nothing to do with it. Later he admits it to various people, though he suffers nothing. With this history, Squirrel is convinced that the Mafia will look no further than Markie to rectify his plans. He hires Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) to knock over the joint for him.

killing them softly heist
“I don’t know what it is with these guys; they can’t keep their mouths shut about nothing.” – Jackie Cogan

The two successfully hold up the game and rob the player and leave. However, retribution is in order, and the Mafia representative , Driver (Richard Jenkins), hires Dillon’s partner Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), and explains the situation. Jackie understands that Markie was not involved with the latest robbery, he feels that Markie’s death would restore the mobsters’ buoyancy in the local gambling scene again, seeing as it has been so disrupted. Driver is uneasy about the suggestion. Russell shares his robbery participation with Kenny Gill (Slaine) in Florida, who lets Jackie in on what he knew.

killing them softly negotiations
“I like to kill them softly, from a distance. Not close enough for feelings.” – Jackie Cogan

Frankie is freaked out, knowing that someone is going to strike back to bring about a balance in the system again, and is furious that Russell would be as stupid as to blabber about what they did. Jackie cannot kill Squirrel because he knows him, so he brings in Mickey Fallon (James Gandolfini) in to do the job. Fallon is on parole in New York. It seems that no one is safe from Jackie’s reach and intent to clean up everything in the situation.

killing the softly
“Don’t tell me what I do.” – Mickey Fallon

Jackie needs total control over the show, and starts getting edgy with Mickey and his lack of professionalism as well as all the complications that are arising in a simple clean-up matter. Will anyone escape Jackie’s madness? Will the whole debacle be sorted out, everyone pay their dues, and others be forgiven? What is Jackie’s plan behind this? What is it about Jackie that Dillon trusts, subjecting everyone to the same laws as he is?

A 5/10 for this. I don’t know, I was not particularly enamoured with this. I truly enjoy watching Brad Pitt, but I thought this film was a little bit too all over the show. Also, it was not compelling. I didn’t care what was happening, and thought that the entire premise fell flat. It felt extremely long, too. Brad Pitt was alright, but even he didn’t do much in the way of saving this film for me. It was very disappointing. The story was not as deep as they portrayed it to be, and there was no real character development. The ending was alright, but felt a little bit rushed. Nothing about this movie stuck with me, and the more I sit here and think about it, the more I realize there was nothing memorable, nothing to identify with, no real characters, no great soundtrack, average camera work, all of that. Sucks, cause I really wanted to be impressed. A decent cast, and I wanted to see Brad Pitt do something excellent again. This is definitely not it. Not something I plan to watch again anytime soon and not something that I would recommend.

Review: Blow (2001)

blow movie poster

“Sometimes you’re flush and sometimes you’re bust, and when you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you never think you’ll be up again, but life goes on.”
– Fred Jung

George Jung (Johnny Depp) refuses to be poor like his parents after they lost everything when he was younger, and does everything he can to not be that way. His father, Fred (Ray Liotta), tries to teach him that there is more to life than money. George moves to California with his best friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee). Everything that side is completely different, and a new world lies at their fingertips. George meets his girlfriend Barbara Buckley (Franka Potente), an airline stewardess, and soon they are on a new mission. Tuna comes home with the idea of selling weed in California, but brings a really terrible quality one back with him to start with. Barbara introduces to boys to Derek Foreal (Paul Reubens), the main dealer their side.

blow cocaine cash
“I think it’s fair to say you underestimated the market, Derek.” – George Jung

Together they make a lot of money, but it is not enough George. An old friend from Boston named Kevin Dulli (Max Perlich) runs into George and Tuna in California, and tells them that they could make a fortune with their weed back home. George is struck by an idea and gets Derek on board with having dope flown into Boston through Barbara. Soon, however, the demand outstrips the supply, and alternative means of getting weed need to be thought of. George goes to Mexico, and brokers a deal with a pot farmer there for a lot more supply. George is bust in Chicago with a lot of marijuana, and gets two years. He skips out on his jail sentence when he learns that Barbara is dying of cancer. Returning home after Barbara’s death, his mother Ermine (Rachel Griffiths) has him arrested, and he is sentenced.

blow mugshot
“Danbury wasn’t a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of Marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of Cocaine.” – George Jung

In prison, he befriends his cellmate, Diego Delgado (Jordi Molla), who inaugurates him into the cocaine business. They meet up with cartel officer Cesar Rosa and negotiate a way to smuggle fifteen kilos of cocaine around as a sign of good faith. Though he is violating parole, George gets away with it. Diego is arrested again for something, and requests that George collect some cocaine he left with a friend. After being threatened, George needs to move fifty kilos of coke and soon, and brings in Derek from California. The two sell the fifty kilos in record time. Pleased with his skills, Columbian drug lord Pablo Emilio “El Patrón” Escobar Gaviria (Cliff Curtis) flies George and a now free Diege to Medellin, Columbia, where they are proposed a business deal. Together they become the top US importers, though Diego has no clue as to Derek’s identity, which causes friction between the partners. At Diego’s wedding, George meets his future wife Mirtha (Penélope Cruz). He now has the Columbian wife and partner.

blow when things got rough
“So, you’re the man, huh? Who takes fifty kilos and make them disappear in one day.” – Pablo Escobar

However, Diego betrays George and cuts him out, stealing Derek as his contact after a lot of pressure forced George to reveal his source. Immensely rich, George leaves the game to concentrate on his pregnant wife, and embraces fatherhood wholeheartedly when his daughter, Kristina Sunshine Jung (Emma Roberts), comes along. George’s life is quiet, though his marriage with Mirtha is empty. Mirtha organizes a huge birthday party which gets raided by the FBI, and George is once again arrested. He agrees to take the fall so long as hi family is safe. Intent on getting his money in Panama, he finds out that his bank account has been seized and that he is broke. Suddenly, he and Mirtha have the same marriage his parents had, where his father was trying and his mother was always complaining. Mirtha has George arrested again when he tries to make some money for the family by moving cocaine again.

George’s life is falling apart and his daughter despises him. During his incarceration, Mirtha divorces him. He has nothing waiting for him on the outside. What will George do when he gets out? How will he make his money? Will he be able to salvage his relationship with his daughter that is founded upon a million broken promises?  Will George be out of the game for good? Will he find a way to fix the issues between himself and his mother, even if just for the sake of his father?

A 7/10 for Blow. Johnny Depp delivered a simply stunning portrayal of George Jung. The movie had an interesting layout, and is fantastic if you don’t try to tie the personal things back too closely to the events that went down. It is highly entertaining, though I must say Penélope Cruz irritated me no end. She was simply dreadful to watch, and work on each and every remaining nerve that I have. She was not good to listen to, and brought nothing to the table. Ray Liotta was excellent, though Rachel Griffiths was also dreadful – not as an actress or her portrayal, but her character. What a horrible person! I must give the film credit for having a fantastic soundtrack, I enjoyed it. George Jung seems to be a little egocentric, though Johnny Depp almost tried to give him more depth. He was not really a dangerous criminal, but his ambition did outstrip his talents. He was not what you could call the best dad, leaving a trail of broken promises and mistrust galore in his wake; it is little wonder his daughter was hurt so badly. However, I do not think that Mirtha was a really good alternative to have as the primary parent – she was mad. I thought the history of how cocaine spread through the States was incredibly impressive. The planning and execution was no small feat, and people were on a roll, but as always, greed will prevail. The one thing that defines this movie to me is truly Depp’s performance – he is an amazing actor. I wish he would do more dramas again as opposed to just the cuckoo characters (not that he doesn’t play them to the tee, but he is far more talented than just that). There were some crazy situations and incidences that you came into contact with in this film, and the story in incredible. There were flaws to this film, but overall it was solid, well put together and a good watch, though from what I read, they seriously skewed the viewers’ perception on who and what George Jung is. Worth the watch though, even though Cruz is an absolute disaster. She really detracted from the story for me.